Glebe Gardens and Shute House

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HCC Site ID: 1201 Parish: Basingstoke
Designations: Conservation area Area: 2.5ha
Access: Public Access Ownership: Public Park and University of Winchester teaching facilities/Basingstoke &
Deane Borough Council

Glebe Gardens, located on Church Street Basingstoke, is an oasis of green space and a rare fragment of Basingstoke’s history remaining within the urban fabric of the town centre. The Church of St Michael and All Angels, located at the south east corner of the park, was built under the auspices of Bishop Fox in approximately 1520. The tower of this most visually dominant historic building is dwarfed by the massive modern commercial Festival Place shopping centre.

In 1249 Walter de Merton chancellor to Henry III, and bishop of Rochester left money for the founding of Merton College (Oxford) and a hospital in Basingstoke, sited at the top of Church Street opposite the then parsonage. The grounds of Glebe Gardens originally formed the lawns and glebe meadows attached to the parsonage built in 1728, near the junction of Frog Lane and Church Street (see the 1763 survey). The poet Thomas Warton, (1728-1790), born in the parsonage, was the younger son of Thomas Warton (1688-1745), vicar of Basingstoke. He entered Trinity College, Oxford in 1744 where, following in his father’s footsteps, he became Professor of Poetry, and was subsequently made Poet Laureate in 1785. He wrote a sonnet “To the River Loddon” recalling his early years.

The Georgian rectory standing in the north eastern corner of the gardens dates from 1773, its construction financed by the President and Fellows of Magdalen College. At that time the incumbent James Elwin Millard had 17 acres of glebe land, including an orchard and pasture. In 1840 -1 the church was restored at cost of £4,600, and part of the stained glass rescued from the derelict Chapel of the Holy Ghost was donated by Lady Mill of Mottisfont Abbey and used in the reconstruction of the east window.

During the late 1960s a new rectory more suited to modern life was built close to St Michael’s Church, and during the redevelopment of the town centre the river was diverted underground to re-emerge in Eastrop Park. Before the urbanisation of the 20th century, the River Loddon, (rising in the West Ham area) had a considerable flow. Its water was used in various industrial processes including retting of flax, fulling of cloth, weaving, milling and brewing, all evidenced in existing local names. The confluence of two streams occured within the glebe lands, creating a small pond as it passed north east to Eastrop. A footbridge across the Loddon (see 1878 map) – in the same location today – enabled the incumbent to approach the church from the rectory.

A Mulberry tree planted in connection with the silk mill, which used to be in Brook Street, remains in the gardens near the car park entrance. The gardens and the old rectory were bought by the Borough Council in the early 1970s. The name of the gardens obviously derived from the former land use, and the rectory renamed Chute House after the Rev. Anthony Chute, vicar of St. Michael’s church from 1938 to 1947. Chute House now accomodates the University of Winchester Campus in Basingstoke. A range of qualifications are available in a variety of academic disciplines offering enhanced work-based skills.

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In 1977 Glebe Gardens and its environs was included in the Conservation area of Central Basingstoke. The open spaces in this conservation area are extremely important, – defining the historic development of the town of Basingstoke. The sequence of Glebe Gardens, St Michael’s churchyard, Church Square and Cross Street creates an intimate series of enclosed spaces, providing an important setting to the key historic buildings in the area. These spaces are a tangible reference to the historic associations and original pastoral character of the area.

In the 2000s, a phased programme of work by the Borough Council within the gardens commenced with the opening up of a section of the River Loddon, and is now being followed by a new phase including lighting, paving, improvements to the footbridge and planting. Sculptor Alec Peever was commissioned to make decorative marker stones for three of the entrances.

Summary

The parkland has a long association with the Church of St Michael and All Angels at least since 1520 when the first church was built. This fragment of open space within the town centre is a remnant of a once important river landscape, providing power to local enterprises and water to the glebe lands, the income from which provided part of the stipend of the incumbent cleric. In the early 1700s the parsonage was the home of the poet Thomas Warton. The rectory, built in 1773, replaced the old parsonage and in its turn was replaced in the 1960s – closer to the church. The land and old rectory were bought by the Borough Council, and Chute House used by the University of Winchester as a teaching centre. Modern Improvements include the opening of the river and new pathways, planting, and installation of entrance marker stones by the sculpter Alec Peever.

Significance: Glebe Gardens is an important oasis of green space in the centre of the town providing an important setting to the key historic buildings in the area. These spaces are a tangible reference to the historic associations and original character of the area, a fragment marking part of the history of the development of the borough of Basingstoke.

Landscape Planning Status:

Glebe Gardens and Chute House (formerly the Rectory) lie within the designated Conservation Area and all protections apply.

An Area of High Archaeological Potential (AHAP) is located around St Michael’s Church and churchyard, encompassing remains of earlier churches on the site beneath the existing medieval building, and some medieval burials may also remain intact in the churchyard.

An Area of Archaeological Potential (AAP) is located to the north of St Michael’s Church, along the west side of Church Street and Glebe Gardens. The area encompasses late medieval buildings, undisturbed by modern development, and evidence may exist of an early settlement.
Research: EM Consultants for Basingstoke & Deane: June 2010

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